Hot Wired

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With a great job as a community college professor, some peace and quiet now that the kids are out of the house, and a loving new husband, it would seem Bel Barrett finally has a chance to kick back and enjoy life. But just when things seem too good to be true, trouble rears its ugly head again––this time in the form of a hateful rap that's circulating on a popular college website. In the old days, the bathroom wall was the place to air grievances for a bad grade or a pop quiz. But now Bel's learning that the ...

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With a great job as a community college professor, some peace and quiet now that the kids are out of the house, and a loving new husband, it would seem Bel Barrett finally has a chance to kick back and enjoy life. But just when things seem too good to be true, trouble rears its ugly head again––this time in the form of a hateful rap that's circulating on a popular college website. In the old days, the bathroom wall was the place to air grievances for a bad grade or a pop quiz. But now Bel's learning that the internet is a lot more effective at ruining a reputation––students across the country think she's a racist and a sexist, all thanks to a vengeful rap posted on

With a little sleuthing, Bel realizes that a former student, who dropped out, joined the army, and lost his arm fighting in Iraq, is taking out his frustrations at her expense. The wannabe rapper wants to make sure someone pays for his misfortune, and with the administration breathing down her neck, and her job in jeopardy, Bel may very well be the one. And while she's concentrating on keeping her job, and keeping her life in order, the rapping avenger turns up dead on the subway track, and all signs point to Bel as the most likely suspect. Now a middle–aged, law–abiding college professor has to find the evidence to prove she's innocent, before the decision to give one bad grade lands her in jail for a long, long time.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597222198
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 4/12/2006
  • Series: A Bel Barrett Mystery Ser.
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Isenberg taught English to urban community college students for close to thirty years. She has been writing mysteries ever since she experienced her first hot flash. Her copies of Modern Maturity are delivered to her new home in Amherst, Massachusetts, that she shares with her husband Phil Thompkins.

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Read an Excerpt

Hot Wired

A Bel Barrett Mystery
By Jane Isenberg

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Jane Isenberg
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060577533

Chapter One
River Edge Community College
Jersey City, NJ
English Professor Bel Barrett

beef wid barrett

profesr barrett she think she ill
been teachin speech since before da pill
she think she stylin wid her rules n crap
but when she get ta rappin it time ta nap
she spit bout her kids n all da rest
but dey aint never nuttin bout her family on da test
she aint got no time ta help u learn
n da book she pik I hope it burn
in her class it only bitches get de A
she hate stuntin niggaz so mabe she gay
pik another prof if u wanna pass
cause barrett suck n so do her class

Evaluation: -1

Whoever wrote this had been a student of mine in a speech class, and he hated me. Worse, he thought I was a terrible teacher. I could feel my stomach churn as I stared, transfixed, at the ugly words on the computer screen. Blinking, I read them again, and then again, all the while struggling to deny them. Even though my limited familiarity with current urban slang kept me from fully understanding the author's every nuance, I certainly got the idea. His lines challenged and then demolished the image I had cultivated of myself as an accomplished and caring prof.

"Here," said Wendy, my longtime officemate and friend, pushing toward me the jar of M&M's that I kept on my desk for emergencies. But for once the little multicolored mood elevators held no allure for me. Swallowing rapidly to avoid gagging, I shook my head. "What kind of site is this?" I asked, squeezing my words out while still trying to keep my lunch in. "How long has this been here? Who has access to it?" As I spoke, I didn't look at Wendy, but continued to stare at the malignant lines on the monitor.

"I told you the post was off the wall. There are a couple of negative evaluations on the site about me too, but nothing quite like that one. I assumed you'd want to check it out." Wendy's rising inflection gave me the impression that she was rethinking this assumption. "According to its home page, is one of those Web-based bulletin boards that give students the opportunity to evaluate their professors and post their critiques anonymously. Then other students who are registering for courses can read them when they're deciding what to take. Lots of colleges have these websites now." As she spoke, I recalled a few dog-eared, typo-ridden leaflets critiquing courses and professors that had passed from senior to freshman during my own student days. Wendy paused and reached over to touch my shoulder. "Hey! Get a grip! I thought you'd get a giggle out of it. This posting is clearly the revenge of some F student. You can't be taking it seriously. Look, you have two other entries that are raves. Just scroll down. You'll see."

When I didn't react, Wendy reached over and moved my mouse herself, revealing the lines: "Take every course she teaches. She's an inspiration." When I remained motionless, she manipulated the mouse one more time to bring up another student's opinion of me. "Her classes are intresting and she grade fair. She make sure you can speak good in public before the course ends."

I didn't really take in these students' praise, though, because I was imagining other students all over the wired world reading about what a boring and biased bitch I was. I grasped the mouse and scrolled up again, praying that the angry diatribe had somehow vanished into the virtual void from which it had emerged. No such luck. It was still there. "Bel, you look like the 'before' photo in one of those old Alka-Seltzer ads. Forget it. Most students love you, and you know it." Like the academic that she was, Wendy proceeded to document her assertion. "Last month you racked up your second RECC Professor of the Year Award in five years, for God's sake. Look." Wendy pointed at the two plaques on our wall before she went on. "The student government polled the students, and they chose you. Twice. Count 'em." A rueful smile lit up her elfin features for just a moment. "I've been teaching here since the seventies just like you, and I don't have even one of those."

I was shaking my head before she finished her sentence. "Only the students who happened to be in class on the day they gave out the surveys got to vote. And I don't think they polled the evening students this year," I said. My stomach had settled slightly, but I felt hot tears brimming and burning. One escaped and scalded a path down my cheek.

"Would you look at you? I swear, Bel, if you shed one more tear over this, I'll cut off your supply of M&M's for good." Concern had moved Wendy's voice up a register, so her shrill rasp was at odds with her flip words. "Bel, you know those faculty evaluation forms that students fill out every semester?" I nodded mutely while another tear, oblivious to Wendy's threat, seared my cheek. "Yours are always so good. Of course, every once in a while somebody says you give too much work or you expect too much, but you almost always get high scores. And your students write really nice comments, too. Remember the one last semester who wrote that your ESL course changed his life? And the other one who said that what he learned in your speech class helped him to get a job? Come on, Bel."

At the sight of a third tear, vexation ridged Wendy's brow. She began to swivel back and forth on her chair, something she did without realizing it whenever she was seriously stressed. "I told you not to go off estrogen. A drama queen like you isn't meant for the rigors of estrogen withdrawal. Now come on. Pull yourself together," she cajoled, holding out a Kleenex as she rotated by me. "You have a class in just a few minutes."


Excerpted from Hot Wired by Jane Isenberg Copyright © 2005 by Jane Isenberg. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer


    Tenured professor Bel Barrett of River Edge Community College loves her job and is proud that the students like her and that the chairman and president are aware that she deserves the accolades she has won over the years. She is therefore very distressed when a website aimed at evaluating the teachers of RECC includes a rapper dissing her. She feels mortified, ashamed and wonders who it could be. After going through her records she concludes that it is Naftali, a student she gave a D to a few years ago who was so incensed he went before a committee to get his grade changed.................. He wanted to be a hip hop gangsta rapper singing about the Iraqi war so he enlists and comes back missing an arm. He blames Bel for the D that stopped him from being eligible for a four year college. The press gets hold of his message on the website and Bel finds her reputation in shreds. When someone kills Naftali the police zero in on Bel as the prime suspect forcing her to begin one of her infamous investigations and this time the person who will benefit the most if she finds the real killer is herself................... One of the reasons the Bel Barrett mysteries are such a success is the heroine is funny, independent and determined. She is a female readers can identify with as she investigates murders in between hot flashes. Jane Isenberg raises the quality bar of her own series with HOT WIRED because the heroine has a personal stake in the outcome of her latest sleuthing but she still remains the same character readers have come to love............. Harriet Klausner

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